"It's very interesting when you lose these people that you love so much, and also you're filled with awe that they're beloved by everybody," Hager tells PEOPLE

By Charlotte Triggs and Adam Carlson
February 27, 2019 03:38 PM
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Even though George H. W. and Barbara Bush are gone, their love for their family is not forgotten.

Speaking with PEOPLE for this week’s issue, Jenna Bush Hager, who was recently named co-host of the Today show’s fourth hour, says she cannot forget how much she and her sister and cousins were adored by their grandparents.

The morning of her interview with PEOPLE Hager says twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush had remarked, “Every grandchild thought they were their favorite.”

“She was like, ‘I wasn’t sure that I’m their favorite’ — and then we got into a public argument about how I was sure I was,” Hager, 37, recalls.

She holds tight to that abiding affection.

• For more on Hager’s new role with the Today show and updates on her family, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

“It’s also like, ‘Wow, to build a family the way that they did where everybody really loves each other,’ ” Hager says, noting that for the former president and first lady “family was a priority.”

George H. W. and Mrs. Bush died within months of each other last year after 73 years of marriage. Their passing inspired immense public mourning.

The Bush family
| Credit: JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty
Jenna Bush Hager (left) with mom Laura Bush
| Credit: Richard Drew/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“It’s very interesting when you lose these people that you love so much and also you’re filled with awe that they’re beloved by everybody,” Hager tells PEOPLE.

The couple, as matriarch and patriarch of a political dynasty that included two presidents, were no less dedicated at home.

“Our grandfather belonged, of course, to us, but also to the world,” granddaughter Ashley Bush said on Good Morning America in December.

“While he was a part of the whole world, he was very grounded and certainly made us all feel very loved and made us all feel very special,” Ashley said.

Grandson Pierce Bush told C-SPAN last year, of Mrs. Bush, “She was passionate about us not living idle lives and not taking it for granted and doing something that mattered.”

Hager tells PEOPLE that her dad, former President George W. Bush, is “doing well” in the months since his parents’ died. As their oldest son, he’s now stepping into both of their roles in the family.

She says: “It’s a large job to fill, but I think he can do it.”